Sunday, December 23, 2012

I've Been

i've been foolish and pathetic
the worst of peripatetic
pedantic unromantic and worse

i've been shallow and stupid
and so callow that cupid
could shoot me in the heart and i'd curse

i've been mean and low and cold
and can't tell the lies i've told
lest i loose tears like rain into a flood

i've been bad in such big ways
that the train made of my days
splashes stains from the cars that haul the blood

i've over-wandered and been wasteful
pondered then been distasteful
as if to know the poison of my tongue

i've been fickle and forgetful
and now i know regretful
and how wisdom is wasted on the young

i've had good love and shit on that
i've always answered tit for tat
when the right thing to do was just to hear

i've been places i can't go
anymore because they're so
haunted and grow darker by the year

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


i miss you in the duty-free
flitting through the mist
of the fancy french perfume
you'd spray upon your wrist

before butterflying over
as if alit from Orly
to lay Pluie de Gourdon
upon the desert of me

Friday, July 20, 2012

Starbucks Plainview Texas

I was pleasantly surprised to find it that mid-December night a handful of years ago after my mom and I had got to our room in the motel on the main drag, Olton Road (Highway 70), after first going to a wrong hotel. (She couldn't remember where she'd made the reservation.) Both of them were operated by Indian families. Both lobbies had doors that led to where the families lived, and smelled of curry. I remember pondering the juxtaposition of folks from *India having settled in the Texas Panhandle. A long way from home in so many ways.

We had driven the seven or eight hours from Austin for my niece's mid-December graduation from Wayland Baptist University, arriving at night and it was cold. We ate bad fried chicken at a place near the motel; the high school basketball game was on the radio and broadcast on the loudspeakers. We went back to the room and I decided to head out for coffee, or hot chocolate, if I could find some. I turned left out of the lot and drove west and found it - a Starbucks! - just on the other side of Highway 27. I went in, got a hot chocolate and coffee for mom, lingered a bit in appreciation, then went back to the room and found sportscenter and mom asleep.

There was snow on the ground the next morning. I helped a man and woman - he was black, she was white, both were probably approaching 30 - push their car out of the lot when the tires couldn't find traction on the ice. I thought about them, and their car packed like they were headed somewhere, their collective manner like they weren't sure where. What might their story be? Had they woken and flipped a coin to decide which direction they'd head that day? Was there some specific destination they had in mind, and did it lend them hope, or some specific thing they were driving away from, and were they looking over their shoulders, sneaking glances in the rearview, to see if it was following? I felt for them and fortunate for all I had. They turned left out of the lot, headed for 27 most likely and, I decided, another day of driving

I went for a walk in the nearby park, back of the motel, took some pictures of horses in the snow (pictures that didn't turn out, dammit) and wondered what it might be like to grow up in a place like Plainview. The last scene from The Last Picture Show came to mind.  There was something desolate that both attracted and repelled. The quiet, the lonesome howl of the wind, the (seeming) simplicity, things slowed down. Little cowboys at Christmas thigh-high in grandad's Tony Lamas. And yet, something else, a pulse of sorts in the soil underfoot,  reminding of underbelly and shadow, things whispered in church pews. Secrets. War stories. Hunting accidents. A cousin who'd

We ate a good Tex-Mex breakfast at Leal's. I had huevos rancheros. Then back to Starbucks where we stayed a little too long and got to Sarah's commencement a little too late.

I think that Starbucks isn't there in Plainview anymore.


*edit 7/24, Found Object, NYT:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Outpost 4

They honeymooned over a long weekend at the Camino Real.  They'd do it up right some other time, go to the South Pacific; the photos of Tahiti in the travel magazine someone had left on the train had seduced them immediately. But the hotel was part of their brief history.

They drank the same tequila at the same table in the same Juarez bar and staggered similarly back to the same bed and made love as they'd done that first time, nine months and four days before. The sirens began to sing at four in the morning, just as they were dozing off. They went to the balcony and watched the flames grow from a building not far across the border.

By the time the sun began to light the losing battle of the burning maquiladora, the El Paso Fire Department was crossing to help. She made coffee and they watched the thick black smoke rise over the listing, simmering city and fly away east.

Then they took two cold beers from the refrigerator and went to the pool.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Park City

A horrible dream made the decision for her; she wouldn't fight him for custody. She left a lengthy and detailed message on her attorney's answering machine and went online to buy a one-way ticket to Salt Lake. Surely he wouldn't give her a problem about staying in the condo - it would be hers eventually, you could bet on that - and she could have at least a week or so to breathe mountain air and get her thoughts sorted out  before making any rash decisions about things not requiring absolute expediency.

The girls would stay in the same school, would get through junior high with the same friends, and they could all convene and conference about high school when the time came, in three years, with each one faster then the one before, but time enough to survey the landscape. Enough time to assess and strategize, then begin the next chapter, an analogy she had always found more reassurring than it was now, having come to the conclusion that the entire book had decided to rewrite itself just as she'd figured out where the story was going. Now, the next page made her nervous.

But a step at a time, she reminded herself. One step at a time. She repeated it like a mantra as she filled the open suitcase on the bed, remembering it would be colder, even very cold at night, and who knew, it might even snow. She decided on hiking boots instead of running shoes. She called her parents, her dad answered, she told him where she would be and that she'd call him tomorrow when he began to press for details. "Just a getaway, that's all, a take a breath timeout." Breath for what, he asked her. Are you alright? "Yes dad, I'm fine, now let me get off the phone so I can get some coffee and to the airport on time." She heard her mother in the background.

Is who alright? William? Is who alright? Is that Janice? If that's Janice I want to talk to her. "I gotta go, dad. Taxi's here. Love you. Talk to you tomorrow," and she hung up. She turned off the phone and  dropped it on her sweatshirt and closed the suitcase. When she turned to see if the car she'd heard was the taxi - no, a beater pickup truck with New Mexico plates and two dogs in back - she caught herself in the mirror and stared as if at a stranger until her taxi did arrive and finally honked her to attention.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Driveway

I am in the driveway now
with Jason and Ethnea dying.
Charles holds the gun and stands,
dead eyes on his girls crying.

It's Christmas Eve in Canada.
Blood is everywhere.
I hear the sirens coming closer.
Charles doesn't care.

Jason and Ethnea leave
their bodies where they fell.
The girls stare but can't believe
the story they won't tell.

I am in the driveway now,
thirty-something years away
from Christmas Eve bleeding out
into every Christmas Day. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Outpost 3

They sat on the deck in silence save for the sipping of their coffee, watching the day's newborn sun come up from behind the Glass Mountains, turning them into a glowing behemoth risen from the Permian Basin like an island on fire. The dog came around, sniffed the boots mudcaked from the previous day's walk up Alamito Creek, then sat between them, tail tapping the old hardwood in a happy drumbeat until settling.

He asked if she'd heard the coyotes in the night and she nodded. She asked if he remembered the dream that had him talking in his sleep.

No. What was I saying?

Something about Paris, she said, then asked if he'd ever been.

No. You?

She shook her head, putting her hand atop his on the arm of the chair. He turned his palm up and took her fingers into his.

The Amtrak leaving for Del Rio blew its horn, bringing the dog's head up from its paws. She turned back to the sunrise just as he turned to her, so that her silver and turqouise rattlesnake earring dangled and swayed like a lure, and he asked her. Te casarĂ­as conmigo?

She smiled, putting her coffee down, thinking, finally looking at him, nodding.

Okay, he said. Good. He kissed her cheek and stood up. Mas cafe?

Si. Gracias.

She touched his jeans as he left and her eyes and the dog followed him in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Outpost 2

She asked how he'd gotten himself to West Texas. He was driving, left arm out the window, hanging as if to cure in the early evening heat, his leathery hand banging the door of the old Suburban in time with Peggy Sue coming in clear from the El Paso station she liked. They were returning from dinner at the Chuy's in Van Horn. He turned down the radio.

Same way a ball stops rolling.

Have you stopped?

Feels like it.

Feel good?

He nodded and finally looked at her, hauling in his left hand and dropping it on the steering wheel at high-noon, taking hers in his right and pulling her close. She kissed his cheek quickly like a schoolgirl, making him smile though she didn't see it, tuning the radio to a different station at the sound of a commercial, finding Freddie Fender singing Alla En El Rancho Grande, then singing along, staring out her window at the Cuesta del Burro range, a new shade of burning purple in the bruise of a sunset already in Chihuahua. He watched her, studying her wrinkles, the streaks of grey that would in time overtake the deep Rio Grande brown. He imagined her silverhaired.

Do I get a Spanish lesson tonight?

She smiled though he didn't see it, eyes back on the road.

Si. Mas escuela.

His laugh surprised her, then haunted her a moment, though she didn't know why.

don't do it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There's that.

I'll miss the year
your gargling lungs die
like inside-out fish
the sea's coughed up
to feed the rocks,
crabs and gulls.
there's that.